Rampant Steelers

Sheffield Steelers 9 Newcastle Vipers 0

ICE hockey has been hit hard by the recession; the Elite League is a divided division of rich men and poor men these days.

Fresh on the heels of an 18-1 mauling of penniless Edinburgh Capitals, Steelers last night welcomed the impoverished Newcastle Vipers as the next lambs to the Sheffield Arena slaughter.

Or mutton dressed as lamb, perhaps. For this Geordie club used to pride itself on being an intimidating, malevolent outfit, now their players seem as small and inconsequential as the budget their backroom staff appear to be working with.

Sheffield, underpinned off the ice by a millionaire owner and on it, defensively, by a revitalised Steve Munn, strolled to another enormous win, to go level in the division's second spot with Belfast Giants.

It sets up an intriguing and genuine contest, on Saturday against the Irish.

Steelers unleashed the first of their onslaught after two minutes, Jason Hewitt celebrating becoming a father with a first-time drive from the right circle.

A minute later it was 2-0, Rob Globke – revelling in a new role as centreman – brushing the puck home past stationary American goalie Charlie Effinger.

With Steelers rolling four lines of 11 forwards, a limited, next to bottom Vipers were staring at another big loss – they had already been hammered 8-0 twice by Ben Simon's side this season.

And that fear of another, worse embarassment increased when Steelers scored on their first power play at 13;55. Marshalled on point by Legue and Rod Sarich, Simon drifted in to extend the lead.

That 3-0 period was replicated in the next two sessions. Ashley Tait, who seconds earlier had squandered a clearer chance, surprised himself by scoring with a weak effort. Then Sarich's blue line shot was tipped in by Simon before Globke also registered his second of the night with an impudent back-hand.

And it was the same again in the final stanza.

In fairness to Sheffield, they stuck at their task, chasing every puck and making every move count as if it was a truly competitive game.

Legue scored two straight before Joey Talbot hit the final nail in the coffin. The goal went in just as a smattering of Geordies in the crowd were trying to lift their team.

It was a case of no-way, the lads.

Afterwards, two-goal Legue said: "Nobody likes to run up scores against teams who haven't got the manpower that we have. But we had a job to do and we have to keep tight defensively for when we play teams like Nottingham Panthers and Cardiff Devils."

*Nottingham Panthers drew 3-3 in their Challenge Cup group game at Cardiff Devils last night, ending Sheffield's interest in that competition, the third most important domestic trophy.

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